Stitched Up Heart, Mixi Demner Interview – ‘Darkness’ and Women in Rock

2020-10-13

Stitched Up Heart vocalist Mixi Demner joins Anne Erickson on Audio Ink Radio.

Stitched Up Heart – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Mixi Demner from Stitched Up Heart joins Anne Erickson to talk about the band’s new album, “Darkness,” what she’s been doing in quarantine and her experience as a woman in rock music in this extensive interview

California rockers Stitched Up Heart released their latest album, the powerful “Darkness,” on March 13, the same day much of the U.S. started closing due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was a chaotic time to release a new set, but the band pulled through with a triumphant album, which features the hit single “Lost,” featuring Sully Erna from Godsmack.

Despite the craziness this year, Mixi Demner from Stitched Up Heart remains positive. The band has been connecting with fans via Twitch and also using some downtime to write new music.

Demner spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink about what the band has been doing while on quarantine, her experience as a woman rock and metal music, the status of new Stitched Up Heart music and more. Watch the video interview and read the full feature below.

Anne Erickson: Congratulations on your new album, “Darkness,” which came out in March. What was it like releasing the new album amid coronavirus breaking out?

Mixi Demner: Well, luckily, we did a really unique roll out for the album, where we had a waterfall release, where a new song would be released every month, until March 13, when the whole album was out, which was just two or three more songs. Luckily, we did it this way, because the same exact day we released the album, our tour with Sebastian Bach got postponed that was supposed to start March 24. Also, when a band releases an album, you’re supposed to go tour off of it, and we have 10 festivals and all this stuff planed, so it’s a little bit of a wrench in the gears. Everything had started gaining momentum, and then, everything shut down. Ironically, the album title is “Darkness,” and it’s a lot about introspective and stuff going on inside of you, and I think thee’s a lot of lyrical content we can all relate to with what’s going on. It was almost the perfect anthem for what is happening.

Sully Erna does a guest vocals on your song, “Lost,” which is great. Tell me about how that friendship formed.

Sully, I met him a few years back. We got put together to collaborate on some writing and see what would happen, and we automatically clicked. It was one of those relationships where you immediately feel like you’ve know the person your whole life. We got along really well and ended up being friends and kept in touch over the past couple of years, and when we started writing the album, management actually asked me if I would ask him if he would want to sing on something, and I said, okay, I’ll ask.

So, I asked him hesitantly, and he was totally supportive of it. He was like, let’s just make sure we’ve the right song, and let’s– it had to be the right song. So, we went back and forth over doing a cover,and I didn’t want to do a cover. Finally when the album was completely done, I was listening to it and realized there was an instrumental part with a heavier breakdown that would sound really cool with a lyric, and his voice would be great in this spot. So, I threw it at everyone, and they all agreed on it. Finally, another couple of weeks go by, and Sully asked me to fly to Nashville, because they were moving the Godsmack studio from Massachusetts down to Nashville, so the band could record there. So, I flew over there, and he didn’t want to just email his voice. It’s just kind of not as sentimental. So, we didn’t get the studio set up in time! We ended up using somebody else’s studio last minute, and he tracked his vocals, and on the way back, he was like, who’s going to sing my parts? So, I said, oh, the guys in the band can do it, or if we’re on tour with somebody maybe they would want to come up and sing, or preferably you. And we ended up on tour! So, one thing let to another, and that’s what happened.

What’s up with bands doing so many cover songs right now, by the way?

Yeah! I mean, personally– I love songs. It’s hard to do redo something like the way that it was done, and it loses all of its originality. It’s just like movies. Movies recreate the stories that were done already. That’s why I like movies with “The Rock,” because most of the movies he does are original scripts.” So, they weren’t redone. Like, “Skyscraper.” But, I’m not a big fan of doing covers. I will do them, here and there, if asked to, but I don’t know. I think that it’s just, “Hey, this, this song worked. Let’s do it again.”

You mentioned that tour with Sebastian Bach. It’s really cool he hand-picked you guys to open on that tour. What was that like finding out that he wanted Stitched Up Heart to open for him?

It was crazy, because we were going to try to get on a different tour, and that came out of the blue. We were negotiating on a different tour, and it came out of the blue and we were just, no. Really, is this real? … This is the tour that got postponed to the fall, and we’ll see what happens with that, because I don’t even think Canada will let Americans in. I don’t know what’s going to go on. We’re still kind of playing that by ear, as well as everybody else.

But, the first album from Skid Row, they planned on doing the whole first album in its entirety, and I love every song on that record. Just to see that stuff, I’m still like, Come on! Please happen– please happen. So, it will be pretty nostalgic and cool.

Have you guys played any shows this summer?

We were supposed to play Sturgis, but a couple of the bands that we were on the same bill that day decided that it wasn’t really safe for them. We had been on the fence about it. We have one of our crew members that we need to have there also has some heart issues and some conditions that would be very– you know, we didn’t want to put him in harms way. I had like fans that planned on bringing their entire families to Sturgis. I just didn’t feel right about it. For us, I’m healthy as a horse. I’m not worried about myself, but I do take everybody into consideration that might be going. They were going to just drive out. Who cares what happens? Knowing that they would put themselves at risk just for the show, I just didn’t want to hurt anyone. So, we decided unanimously that it wasn’t the best choice, and it wasn’t worth it, even though I wanted to play Sturgis for so long. It’s such a cool event. I ride motorcycles, too. So, I was super stoked. But, it was just a decision we had to make to keep everyone safe.

The fall tour with Sebastian Bach– you said it’s kind of still on as of now, but you’re playing it by ear?

Yeah. I mean, as far as I know, it’s still a go. I’m sure, if anything, it just depends on– half of the shows are in Canada. How are we supposed to get there? And you can’t just take half of the tour away. So, we’re all just kind of taking it a day at a time and seeing what happens, and I’m sure that even if it got moved, it would still happen. But, it just depends on how… I mean, I didn’t think in March that we would be going into September still in quarantine.

Right. I don’t think anyone did. It’s so crazy.

Yeah. It’s crazy.

I was wondering if maybe touring musicians are exempt from the whole travel ban thing, but I don’t think they are, as of now, at least.

I don’t know, but then you’re also looking at certain states, and every state has different laws on how many people you can have at a show. For Sturgis in South Dakota, they didn’t have a rule about the shows, because their numbers were super low and they weren’t as concerned about it. But, if on the way out there, there are certain states that just, you could only have 50 people in a gathering, and what are you going to fill a 1,000 people at each of these shows? So, how were you supposed to do that? Get a bigger venue? I don’t know. It’s all so up in the air.

How you found anything positive to come out of the coronavirus situation from an artistic standpoint?

Absolutely. I mean, obviously we’re, we’re writing, even though we just released a record, so we might as well start writing! That’s what musicians do. I think that it’s a blessing in disguise in some ways, as we found other forms of survival as artists without being on tour. Some of the bands I know survive off of being on tour. I’ve been conditioned to be able to survive in-between tours and stuff, because I’ve been getting so used to it over the last 10 years of touring. You don’t know when you’re going to have a tour. You don’t know– stuff pops up out of nowhere sometimes, like Sebastian Bach! So, we’ve found other forms of connecting with our fans, like Twitch, for example. We’ve been streaming every single day. We have a talk show kind of thing that we do. Every band member has a different show, and it’s kept us connected. It’s given us more of a chance to really get to know people that really support us. It’s made another form of us being able to survive and pay our bills and all that stuff between tours. By the time everything opens back up, we’ll have grown more of a strong foundation with our fans, and we’ll have another source of income that we’re creating through Twitch and streaming and stuff like that online.

Being a frontwoman in rock and metal music, what’s your experience been as a female in the industry? Do you feel you’ve been treated pretty equal with the guys in the band, or has it been all over the board?

You know, I’ve had a little different kind of– it’s hard to explain where I stand on it, because I wouldn’t know what it would be like to be a guy, but I do think that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the rock community for females. There’s a lot of growth that’s happened. Just like everything in the world, there’s a lot of growth, but still a lot of work that needs to be done. There’s definitely more judgment, I feel like, for women If it’s a bunch of guys in the band, they go up, they play the show. There isn’t so much critique and you don’t have to prove yourself as much. I feel like, when you’re male, I do think that– the female vocal has a different sound than the male vocal, so over rock music, it can sometimes sound more poppy and sometimes deter the listener, but also there’s people that like the female vocal over the male vocal, because the male is always going to sound stronger and harder, because that’s the voice that they they have.

But, I do feel like being a woman, you do capture a little more attention. But that attention also comes with a lot more judgment and critique, I think, as well.

What do you think about the term female-fronted? Because some people hate the term.

I mean, I get that, but I use it as well. Because it’s the easiest way to kind of explain– it’s like, yeah, we’re a female-fronted rock band. I explain it to anybody that– if I’m talking about other girls in other bands to my dad or something, and I say, “It’s another female-fronted rock band friend of mine. Then he understands. It doesn’t bother me. It takes a lot to really like upset me, I guess!

I agree. I use it, because it’s a descriptor. It’s a band, and there is a female! So, tell me about the new music that you’re working on.

So far, we’ve done– Merritt has written seven instrumental tracks. I haven’t tracked all the vocals on them all yet, because we’ve been so busy with the whole Twitch streaming stuff. I’m sure that a lot of lyrics are coming out somewhat, and I sing from the present moment and what’s happening. I think a lot of the new music that’s coming out is going to have the elements of what we’re all going through in it. So, I think there’s just going to be, in this, a lot of that. Then there’s a couple other things in the works with some other producers that we’ve been collaborating with and some other artists, as well. I love the whole collaboration aspect of things. I really like working with other singers, especially, on stuff. It adds another dynamic, especially a male vocal with a female vocal. I really liked the contrast, personally. So, we’re working on some collaborations and stuff, as well as just writing some new stuff and getting started a little early for the next record.

Do you think we might get a new song before the end of the year?

That’s the plan, and then maybe a new music video, perhaps.

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